MONTEREY, California — Barney Joseph Ramnauth, a distinguished police officer from Northern California, is facing life in prison on allegations that he sexually assaulted a child nearly 20 years ago.
Ramnauth was arrested earlier this month on seven felony charges, including suspicion of sodomizing a child younger than 10 years, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported on Thursday. All seven charges stem from an incident that allegedly took place on Aug. 20, 1998, and together, they could result in life imprisonment, according to California law.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is reportedly investigating the charges against Ramnauth.
In 2014, Ramnauth was named Monterey County Peace Officers Association Officer of the Year for his work as a corporal in the Presidio of Monterey Police Department. The Presidio of Monterey is an active U.S. military installation with its own police force which works closely with the Army and other military branches at the facility.
In February, the Army settled a wrongful termination and sexual harassment suit, awarding $820,000 to Luydmila Starkey, a former Presidio of Monterey police trainee. The Monterey Herald reported that Starkey alleged that she was fired in 2013 after she accused her superior officer, Sgt. Wayne Lord, of touching her inappropriately, sexually propositioning her, and commenting on her appearance, among other inappropriate actions.
Ramnauth is certainly not the first well-regarded, award-winning police officer to face charges of child abuse or sexual misconduct. In September of 2015, Michael Harding, a former police officer from Port St. Lucie, Florida, was sentenced to life in prison on child pornography charges. In 2011, Harding had been named Officer of the Year while working at the Fort Pierce, Florida, police station.
Jerad Gale was named the city’s Officer of the Year in Champaign, Illinois, in 2014. In June the following year, he was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a former girlfriend and put on paid leave. He was formally fired from the force on May 4, 2016.
Gale pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and he was sentenced to six months in jail and four years of probation. He will spend the rest of his life as a convicted felon and registered sex offender, barred by law from possessing a firearm.
In exchange for entering a guilty plea in that case, though, the State’s Attorney dismissed two prior, more serious counts of felony sexual assault against Gale.
Research shows that police officers are two to four times more likely to engage in domestic violence than the population as a whole, according to a 2014 report from The Atlantic.
“And while all partner abuse is unacceptable, it is especially problematic when domestic abusers are literally the people that battered and abused women are supposed to call for help,” wrote Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer at The Atlantic.
“If there’s any job that domestic abuse should disqualify a person from holding, isn’t it the one job that gives you a lethal weapon, trains you to stalk people without their noticing, and relies on your judgment and discretion to protect the abused against domestic abusers?” Friedersdorf asked.
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